Civilians flee bombardment as Arab states pound Yemen port

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The request for mine sweepers was diverted to France, which said it was considering minesweeping in Hodeida after the end of military operations there.

"The armed forces which are supported by the Arab coalition have freed Hodeida International Airport from the Houthi militias and the engineering teams have started to clear the airport and its surroundings from mines and bombs", the military said on its official Twitter account.

Fighters backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates pushed toward the Yemeni port city of Hodeida on Thursday, on the second day of a battle that analysts say could be the bloodiest of the Yemen war.

Western countries have quietly backed the Arab coalition, but the threat of humanitarian catastrophe could unravel that support.

The ship was struck during the initial Saudi-led coalition assault on the Yemeni city of Hodeidah, which is spearheaded by the UAE and codenamed Golden Victory.

And for now, she said Hodeidah's all-important port - which receives about 80 percent of the country's imports - remains untouched by the bombardment.

In other key findings, the secretary-general said the U.N.is looking into reports from two unnamed countries that Iran received "dual-use items, materials, equipment, goods and technology" in violation of United Nations restrictions.

"We are there and delivering, we are not leaving Houdaida", Grande said. Abdullah al-Rabeeah, the head of Saudi Arabia's King Salman Aid and Relief Centre, in a press conference Wednesday night sought to allay the fears of the global community. The Houthis, from a Shi'ite minority that ruled a thousand-year Yemeni kingdom until 1962, deny being Tehran's pawns and say they took power in a popular revolt and are defending Yemen from invasion by its neighbours.

Yemen's government under President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi declared on Wednesday that it had begun an operation to retake Hodeidah, a key stronghold of Houthi anti-government forces.

Sadek Dawad, spokesman of the Republican Guards force loyal to the Saudi-led coalition, said government forces had battled their way onto the airport's grounds.

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The United Nations says 22 million Yemenis need humanitarian aid and the number at risk of starvation could more than double to more than 18 million by year-end unless access improves.

SABA reported late Wednesday the forces captured the town of Nakhilia in the district of ad-Durayhimi about 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) south of Hodeida International Airport.

The Houthis have controlled Hodeida for the last two years.

The Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen's exiled government began its assault Wednesday on Hodeida, the main entry for food into a country already on the brink of starvation.

Sweden, a non-permanent council member and leading voice on humanitarian issues, called on the council to demand an immediate halt to the assault to allow time for talks on a rebel withdrawal from Hodeida Port. Worldwide aid groups have long warned against an offensive on Hodeida because the port serves as the entry point for 70 percent of Yemen's imports, as the country teeters on the brink of starvation.

The U.N. Security Council is due to meet behind closed doors on Thursday, at the request of Britain, over the offensive. In a retaliatory operation, the Yemeni army fired a missile on positions of Saudi-backed mercenaries.

"We are not directly supporting the coalition offensive on the port of Hodeidah", Pentagon spokesman Maj.

"This comes from this sea port". Another Yemeni commander, Abu Zarah al-Mahrami, was quoted by Dubai-based Al-Arabiya TV network as saying that pro-government forces are "within meters" of the airport.

The UN has warned that the assault could end up killing as many as 250,000 civilians and exacerbate the already bad conditions in Yemen, as Hodeidah is the main hub for delivering humanitarian aid to the country, where millions are on the brink of starvation.

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